Sunday, November 01, 2015

AD&D Players Handbook part 6

Apologies to everyone for the several week hiatus in posting.  I've been trying to avoid lengthy delays like this, but such are the vagaries of life, family and sleep deprivation.  Let's crack on shall we?

Charisma: Let's go to the source for the definition of this stat.  Gary describes it as the character's combination of "physical attractiveness, persuasiveness, and personal magnetism".  In short, it's how good a character is at leading and interacting with others.  It's stated outright that a character doesn't have to be beautiful to have a high charisma, he or she just has to compensate with high ratings in the other areas that affect the stat.

As always, I'm intrigued by the class restrictions that are enforced by having a low score.  For charisma, any character with a score under 5 can only be an assassin.  It seems like such an arbitrary restriction, and I can't really make sense of it.  Perhaps the answer lies in the necessity of an assassin going unnoticed, and being somewhat nondescript, but that could equally apply to a thief.  It's an odd one.

I notice that a dwarf can only have a maximum charisma score of 17, at least in regards to non-dwarves.  They can have an 18 when interacting with other dwarves, which makes perfect sense.  Half-orcs have the same limitation in regards to interactions with anyone except for orcs and other half-orcs, but in their case their charisma is limited to 12.  It's pretty harsh.

As in OD&D, your charisma determines the maximum number of henchmen you can have in your employ.  The numbers are a little more generous in AD&D, though.  I've always been a bit vague as to what constitutes a henchman; I assume it's anyone in your service who has levels in a character class.  I'll keep an eye out to see if it's adequately explained.

Your charisma also modifies the loyalty score of your servants.  This was in OD&D, but there the modifiers were expressed as a number (-2, +1, +3, etc.).  Here they are given as percentages, so the system has been given an overhaul.  That will have to wait until later in the book, though.

Finally, charisma affects your Reaction Adjustment, which means that it changes how the creatures you meet react to you.  This was in OD&D in a general sense, but I think that this is the first time it's laid out in a concrete fashion.  It's mentioned that a low-charisma character can offset his deficiency with bribes and gifts.

Now we move on to the section on player character races, of which there are seven: dwarf, elf, gnome, half-elf, halfling, half-orc, and human.  The half-orc is appearing as a playable race for the first time.

The first thing we get in this section is a table listing which classes are available to each race, but I'll deal with that later.  Of more interest right now is the table on racial level limitations.  In AD&D, only humans are unlimited in the level they can attain.  Demi-humans all have caps on how far they can advance.  For example, a halfling can only reach level 6 as a fighter, and an elf is limited to level 11 as a magic-user.  These limits are relaxed slightly for characters with high ability scores, but not by much.  There are a small number of exceptions to the rule: all demi-humans except for half-orcs can advance as high as they want in the thief class.  Half-orcs have no limits in the assassin class.

I'm torn on level limits, to be honest.  I can see their role in creating a human-centric setting, if that's what you want.  Supposedly they're also there to offset the special abilities that demi-humans gain, but I don't think it balances out.  Demi-human special abilities don't make that much of a difference, especially at higher level when the limitations kick in.  On the whole I prefer the approach of giving humans some extra abilities to balance things, rather than punishing demi-human characters.

It's interesting to note that, although they can't be used as player characters, clerics for dwarves, elves and gnomes are listed on the table.  Presumably they're too tied to their home communities to be out adventuring.  Halflings can't be clerics at all, but they do have NPC druids, which could be an interesting little cultural nugget.

Penalties and Bonuses for Race: One of the above-mentioned perks of being a demi-human is the modifiers that are applied to your ability scores.  Each race gets a bonus in a stat, and a penalty on another.  Dwarfs get a Constitution bonus, and a Charisma penalty, for example.  Half-elves have no modifiers, and surprisingly neither do gnomes.  Half-orcs get a bonus to Strength and Constitution, which makes them a pretty attractive prospect.  I always see D&D players trying desperately to roll that mythical 18/00 Strength, but surely it's better and easier just to roll an 18 then pick your race as half-orc.  You have to deal with a super-low Charisma, but a 19 strength has a way of mitigating that.

Character Ability Scores by Racial Type: Each non-human race has a minimum and maximum in each ability score that must be met before you can choose to become that race.  Gary generously gives you the option of lowering your stats to meet the requirements, if necessary.  These scores are split between male and female requirements, but it really only applies to maximum Strength.

This is another rule that's just a bit too finicky for my tastes.  It makes the various races a little bit more distinct, but also more limiting.  I prefer to play without these restrictions.


Glen Sprigg said...

Woot! Back again, are you? We missed you. :)

Might I suggest something that (un)reason did (and I assume is still doing) on his mammoth Dragon Magazine run? He writes a bunch of reviews when the mood strikes him (or he has time), and then breaks them down over a reasonable period of time. That's how he maintained such a tremendous daily run. I'm not saying post daily (yes! Do it!), but if you review the entire races section in one shot, then break it down into multiple posts, you can have a reasonable posting schedule while not burning out so badly.

I thought this was the first appearance of gnomes as a PC race, though. Where did they appear before this?

mikemonaco said...

I'd say that level limits, while I tend to favor them on principle, aren't very well thought out, especially with all the weird exceptions for characters with higher stats (which half-orcs are the only race not to enjoy the benefit of). If I were re-doing the rules, I'd let humans multiclass but not demihumans and leave level limits out of it.

I'd also note that racial modifiers can't actually raise a half-orcs' STR to 19, you are still limited by the ability max/min table (though dwarves, halforcs, and halflings CAN get 19 con, and elves a 19 Dex..)

Nathan P. Mahney said...

It looks like you guys are both correct: this is the first appearance of gnomes as a PC race, and half-orcs can;t begin with a 19 Strength. This is what I get for posting after midnight.

Looking at the racial maximums table though, I see that Halflings have a maximum Constitution of 19. I wonder why? They don't get a Con bonus.

Glen Sprigg said...

There's a really old Dragonsfoot post in which someone asked the Big G himself about this. He stated that it was an error that he had never noticed in all those years, and it should be Dex 19/Con 18.

Nathan P. Mahney said...

My first thought when I read "The Big G" was Galactus.

Nathan P. Mahney said...

Oh, and on the possibility of posting more often... It's not going to happen, because I have like four other blogs, and I try to update each one about once a week. But if you want to read my thoughts on Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, or computer games from the 1970s, or Marvel comics, the links are to the right.